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Unless you’ve been living in a cave this past year, you’ve probably already heard that Virtual Reality (VR) is coming at us – and fast.

Thanks to Facebook’s recent acquisition of VR company, Oculus Rift, for $2 billion there’s no doubt VR technology is going to change the way we work, play, and communicate. The potential, industry experts predict, is vast.

What is the Oculus Rift headset, and how does it work? Here’s everything you need to know about it.

Over the years, there has always been powerful potential in the general concept of the virtual environment; versions of the technology have been used in gaming, science, medicine, and the military for many years, assisting in everything from training to therapy.

However, as VR becomes better and more affordable – think motion tracking, lightweight head-mounted displays, and integration with existing content – it can dramatically change the way we, as mainstream consumers, interact with, and control digital devices and content in the coming years.

I believe VR is going to be one of the most influential and life changing revolutions, joining the likes of the Internet – a transforming invention that literally has changed the way we accomplish everyday tasks for the better. It is a disruptive technology that will enable people to experience what previously seemed impossible, as well as redefine what it means to be in a “place.”

In fact, VR is going to be so big in the coming years that I believe we will find uses for it in places we didn’t even know we needed it.

In the short tem, we will likely see a period of interesting development and continuing promise (without a huge amount of deliverable for the general public). But once the development phase culminates, after about 18 months, we will start to see more commercial entities – from banks and doctors’ offices to schools and retail shops – equipped with VR headsets. These headset “stations” will begin to pop up in various locations that will allow us to publicly engage with them, just as we now use tablets in restaurants to place our orders, for example.

And, eventually, we won’t have to even ‘go’ to places for things anymore; these places will come to us. VR will be heavily defined by social experiences that connect people in thrilling new ways. Here are some real-life examples that you may have never thought about:

  • Real Estate: So, you want to buy your dream home? Imagine going to more than 50 open houses in just one afternoon simply by putting on a VR headset. This experience will allow you to go well beyond the traditional scrolling of page after page of videos and images on a realtor’s website. With VR, you will actually be able to walk through homes, opening cabinets, walking up and down stairs, checking out the back deck, all without ever having to get in your car. With one simple click, you can visit countless houses, staying as long as you like.
  • Furniture/Electronics Shopping: Now that you’ve bought that dream home, let’s say you want to fill it with some comfy furniture and state-of-the-art electronics. A VR  headset could pull up a salesman to help you select the best type of flat screen TV, based on where the light comes in from the windows in your new home and how far back your couch is from the TV’s spot.  Being inside a replica of your home with the actual salesman will help you figure out exactly where to put that leather sectional couch, based on the exact measurements of your new media room.
  • Retail Clothes Shopping: Coming soon: No more physical trips to the mall to shop for clothes. With VR headsets, you will be able to meet up with your friends in the store of your choice and try on countless potential outfits on your very own avatar. The technology will allow you to look in a mirror, turn around, and even look down at your shoes. You will also be able to mix and match new items with anything you’ve ever purchased in the past, giving you access to your entire wardrobe stored in your own virtual closet. This experience will be much different from even the online shopping we know and love now – with VR, we will actually be able to try items on and see how they look.

Other areas of our lives will also be impacted by VR moving forward. Students won’t have to go to a physical school — the professors and classroom will come to them. And the same holds true for everything from going to the movie theater or a concert, getting some types of medical care, and conducting business meetings.

With this said, there are still many technical hurdles for VR developers to overcome in the coming years, such as latency, field of view, resolution, and the graphical horsepower required to render photorealistic environments at a high frame rate. However, once many of these wrinkles are ironed out, it will be exciting to see how VR becomes interconnected with our daily lives.

So, what will it take for mainstream consumers to eventually embrace this traditionally cumbersome technology?  Similar to many emerging technologies, people tend to only be interested if it’s something that can measurably improve their lives, if it’s easy and affordable.

As technology becomes more lightweight, inexpensive, and accessible, many people are going to quickly realize how VR will help simplify their daily tasks, allowing for creative expression in new and unprecedented ways.

The world seems to be constantly changing and it always seems like the next bit of technology is just around the corner. Thanks to Facebook’s Oculus Rift acquisition, VR has been thrown back into the limelight at a new level, better than ever before.

The possibilities of what VR can actually offer the world moving forward are limitless. This technology has opened up a new door and is the next step to the future itself.

Brian Shuster is CEO of Virtual World Web.


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